It is an interesting time for me to be reading this book. My 23 year old son David is studying Judaism at a Yeshiva in Jerusalem right now and will be back in May to start law school. When he was growing up we celebrated holidays, attended synagogue a few times a year and maintained a cultural and historical connection to Judaism. Of my three children, David is the one who wanted to know more and he has thrown himself completely into studying. He is at an orthodox school and loving every minute. They study from 7:30 in the morning to 10:30 at night with breaks for meals and prayers. So I have a child going in the opposite direction of an Asher Lev. He knows that when he is back in America he will have to figure out how to be observant, go to school and have a social life at the same time. It's exciting for me to listen to his ideas and everything he is learning. My goal is to catch up with him so I can also understand more. I mentioned this to a rabbi recently and he said "The parents follow the hearts of the children." I think this is true.
The first half of Asher Lev has been engrossing. Even though it is told from a Jewish perspective, the themes are universal. Breaking away from our parents to become individuals is a difficult task. However, our past is a significant part of who we are and should be treasured. I'm reminded of a line from the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding,"when Nick tells his sister Tula, who is exasperated by her huge loud family, "Don't let your past dictate who you are, but let it be part of who you will become." The book is also fun for me to read because I grew up in Brooklyn and know the neighborhood where Asher lives and also the Brooklyn Museum that Asher and his mother go to. I also graduated from Brooklyn College which is the school that Asher's mother attends. I find it interesting that the person who accepts Asher's need to be an artist is the Rebbe, the one who I would least expect to understand. Maybe it is the one most close to God who recognizes the piece of God that resides in Asher.